Xbox and Xbox 360 have and will be getting a fair number of driving games this year and whilst many gamers have dwelled in the delights of Project Gotham Racing 3 or the arcade thrills of Ridge Racer 6 or NFS: Most Wanted it might seem that another racing game could be far away from your list of priority purchases right now. Well we are in February and with the Xbox 360 still wowing and sometimes disappointing gamers from across the globe there does seem to be a dry spell with new games, which is understandable when a new console launches. Full Auto has arrived to perhaps fill a void which new game hungry gamers are craving to be filled. Sure, it’s a racing game but this time with the added inclusion of weapons based combat, destructible environments and a rather neat rewind time feature that works extremely well. Are these additions to the traditional racing formula enough?
To begin Full Auto features several modes of play which include the standard Arcade Race, Head to Head, Career and Live play. Within each mode there are a number of game types to mess around with such as circuit races, point to point races, rampage and elimination racing. The career mode is where you will most likely want to spend the majority of your play time when you first get Full Auto as it is here where to begin with you enter several tutorial races which outline the basics of the game before you move on to more challenging races.
The premise of Full Auto is one where you pick a vehicle, choose which weapons to fit, then get out on the roads and beat the other 7 racers who are all trying to win or stop you from wining. What this actually translates to is some furious racing combined with the explosive inclusion of guns, missiles, rockets, shotguns, mines, grenades. What is important here is the careful choice of weaponry depending on your play style. Your choices are based on having a front mounted or rear mounted weapon, perhaps even both. Players can then tweak the weapons load out with a simple button press so for example the front machine guns could be more powerful which in turn would grant a slight loss in power to the rear mines. Whilst selecting and tweaking weapons load outs might be rather simplistic, after some time playing you will begin to realise that depending on how you conduct yourself in a race i.e. leading the pack or perhaps striking from behind makes weapons choice a little more tactical than simply being something different to commit ultimate carnage with.
The cars themselves are healthy mix of sports cars, sedans to pickup trucks and 4×4’s (you can pick various colours). Other than speed I really couldn’t tell if they handled vastly different from each other although I must say the handling is definitely on the “floaty” side. However in Full Auto’s defence most if not all of the tracks (except one which has deadly rocks on each side and is as narrow as a pin head) allow for the accelerator to be pressed down fully for most of the race. I would say the learning curve for getting to grips with controlling cars is between 5-20 minutes depending on what type of gamer you are. Each vehicle can charge up a boost meter by driving up ramps or drift cornering and its use becomes crucial in the later events or if you are aiming for Full Auto medals.
Full Auto adds some over the top realism to proceedings where as you would imagine with all the mines, grenades, rockets and missiles being fired things are going to get blown to pieces. Full Auto features some impressive destructive scenery which begs to be destroyed during each race. Other than the Sunday drivers that litter the roads there are buildings, parked vehicles to blow up or at least damage. With the buildings you cannot level them entirely but you can surely make them look like they are having a bad hair day! Sadly the destruction is not fully interactive whereby if you could shoot an overhead bridge for example and have it crush one of your opponents then that would have been a cool inclusion. Destroying the scenery looks pretty spectacular but also nets you points, which in some races it is a requirement for you to win as well as reach a set number of points. The best way to earn points is to go on the offensive and simply destroy as many opponent racers or rivals as possible; although destroyed cars do get to re-spawn back into the race for you to kill them all over again.
Full Auto features one of the coolest game mechanics on the Xbox 360 to date and that is the “Un-Wreck” or rewind time. Bar online (for obvious reasons) with a simple tap of the right shoulder button, players can rewind time at any point during a race. The use of the un-wreck is determined by how much damage you are causing. So to fill up the un-wreck meter players simply have to cause destruction to opponents or scenery (so there is a point to blowing up random buildings). With the un-wreck players can correct errors in their driving when say confronted by a sharp turn after a long straight. In any other racing game players who fail to brake in time would plough into a barrier or wall, however in Full Auto players are able to make the mistake, rewind time and then with hindsight simply brake in time to take the corner smoothly. Another example of the un-wreck is when you are tailing an opponent who seems to want to drop mines behind him every few seconds. Whilst some mines can be avoided, others do find a way through and can be fatal depending on how much damage your vehicle has already sustained. Say you are driving fast around a steep bend and happen to collide with one of the mines which blows your vehicle to pieces. What you can do is use the un-wreck to a few moments prior to the mine and correct your steering so you miss it entirely.
Throughout the career mode you will encounter race types that mostly require you to come in 1st if possible whilst either scoring a high number of points or by eliminating a number of opponents. There are several race categories to choose from and then a further number of courses to race on and win. Prior to each race you are presented with some target scores to try for which in turn nets you un-lockable car colours and schemes if you are successful in getting a Full Auto, Semi Auto or a Survivor medal.
Full Auto looks pretty polished and whilst not as pretty as PGR3 it does have its own charms considering the level of destruction on display. The vehicles are well designed and certainly look the part when on the weapons load out screens. The polish soon comes off though because as soon as you start racing all hell breaks loose where once shiny cars are left riddled with visible bullet holes or reduced to dented heaps of metal on wheels. The car models and damage cannot be faulted as there is definitely lots of satisfaction gained by looking at your handy work. For reliving classic moments, players are also able to do an instant replay at anytime which is another rather neat addition to the game. The sense of speed when driving fast is very good as well especially if you opt to use the bumper camera view.
On a more negative note there were some instances of minor slowdown at certain mass carnage points in the game. Obviously these moments were down to how I was playing at that particular point and it is safe to say that some players might not even get these slowdown moments at all. Either way the slowdown was rare and didn’t affect game play too badly. Another criticism would be of some inconsistent physics such as being stopped dead in ones tracks by a fragile looking bus shelter. On one occasion my vehicle ground to an immediate halt after colliding with a small pile of black bin bags
The small handful of courses are all themed differently although they all focus on driving through traffic infested roads with some off road driving thrown in for good measure. The level of detail is fair at best although if you do look closely you can see some fairly detailed textures being used. Again in Full Auto’s defence when playing there really isn’t much time to be admiring the scenery as races are as fast and frantic as they come. It is also a shame that there are no pedestrians to either shoot, avoid or just being there to add some atmosphere to the lifeless city streets. I guess you would have to be crazy to walk the streets in Full Auto land what with speeding, gun toting motorists causing mayhem.
The sound is of a reasonable standard and for once features no cheesy announcer or voice acting which come to think about it I wonder why an announcer wasn’t included as the game style certainly cries out for one? What you are left with are the purring of car engines, screeching tyres and lots of gunfire, explosions and metal crunching effects. Combine these with a thumping dance inspired soundtrack and you are given a proper aural thumping!
Longevity is the bane of many games and to be honest Full Auto can and will become repetitive after a while. The various challenges are fun to participate in but what it boils down to is the fact that pretty much every race is the same, drive, shoot and destroy with some minor deviations on these themes thrown in from time to time. This works if you are going to play in short bursts but with prolonged play might become a little tiresome or stale. For those of you who like to gather achievements then this game will be a welcome addition to you collection for netting gamer points. Added longevity for the single player is available in the form of attaining all Full Auto medals on every race. For those of you with friends over then you can race head to head via split screen. Xbox Live gamers will have the bonus of entering ranked or un-ranked races with up to 7 other opponents from across the globe. However I felt the online portion of the game is a little flawed in the sense that the leading car simply enters a different game of racing with none of the destruction and those who are behind have no means of catching the leader if a slight lead is gained and so have to battle it out amongst themselves. Whilst this might work in traditional racing game, it kind of loses the point of Full Auto if you simply race without having to fight for your victory.
Full Auto is a decent racing game which adds some much needed light hearted game play with the inclusion of its weapons. The destructive scenery is impressive and the game play pretty smooth in general yet somehow something doesn’t feel quite right. It almost feels like the development team have rushed the release of the game as things like any kind of explanation as to why or a back story has been omitted. The lack of an Arena mode or even last man standing circuit races is a big disappointment. That said Full Auto does offer some UN-adulterated destructive racing which is presented very well indeed. I have enjoyed playing Full Auto but I can say that the game does not warrant the “classic” stamp as it simply is too one dimensional. The un-wreck feature is absolutely excellent and is implemented very well so 10/10 there for the development team. Overall I would say rent Full Auto first to get a true flavour of the game before you make a purchase. Full Auto is a solid game with some cool features but overall it lacks any true depth.